Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Want to Avoid Having To Buy That Expensive Amusement Park Food? Wear a Yamaka or Headscarf. There's the Ticket.

Dominion Park (c. 1906)
Not La Ronde but Dominion Park (c. 1906), which was once the
bee's knee's. Now it's an empty lot. (image source)
The last time I visited La Ronde, an amusement park in Montreal, was during my university days. I can remember it being hot and feeling hungry and dehydrated. A vapour of grease and salt floated through the air, entered my nostrils and coated my skin.

To be honest, after the rather high admission price and purchasing the entire sheet of tickets required to enter a modest number of rides, my pecuniary reserves had run as dry as was my throat had become that afternoon. So I was unable to afford any of the unappealing overpriced high-sodium food nor the sugary drinks required to wash it down. Perhaps the food situation has improved. But back then I had no money nor inclination to buy any of it.

So, blood sugar levels at a low, sun-baked and head throbbing, my friends and I left the park after a couple of hours after arriving to forage for food in the outside world.

If only I could have brought my own food in.

Montreal amusement park ends ‘special privileges for halal and kosher food’ amid uproar

I like how the National Post put sarcastic air-quotes around special privileges for halal and kosher food. It's an indicator for later on in the story.

This is, of course, more reasonable accommodation, which is a euphemism for special privileges for religion. We know this because it is advantageous cost-wise to be able to bring your own food into the park and it appears that only food that meets the strict requirements of the Jewish or Muslim faith could be brought in to get around the rules.

Well, actually, you could bring in anything you like so long as you looked Muslim or Jewish.
The paper’s reporter had donned a headscarf and received a sticker allowing her to bring her sandwich into the park. “Special privileges for halal and kosher food,” the front-page headline read. “Lunches forbidden at La Ronde except for Jews and Muslims,” the paper reported on its website.
Yes indeed, the above reporter was with the Journal de Montreal which did this little investigation and discovered that if you looked Jewish or Muslim it's A-OK with La Ronde and there's no need to eat your bagged lunch outside the grounds with all the Christians, heathens and atheists. It's your ticket to save.

Understandably, the story sparked an Internet petition demanding the park remove the accommodation. It received over 19,000 signatures.  The National Post, which seems to have a record of bashing Quebec for being intolerant of religion, painted the petition in a negative light.
The “feedback” included a 19,000-name Internet petition and a stream of intolerant reader comments on media web sites after the Journal de Montréal broke the news last week. 
I don't know about the comments section. I saw a lot of very reasonable ones there. But look, here's the meat of the petition itself.
La Ronde à une politique qui empêche les gens d'entrée sur le site avec un lunch. Tous les sacs sont fouillés pour qu'aucune nourriture n'entre sur le site. Par contre, avec cet "accommodement", les juifs et les musulmans peuvent amener leur lunch sans problèmes. Cette pétition à pour but l'égalité, peu importe la religion. La Ronde se doit de révoquer cet "accommodement". Il n'y a que 2 solutions possibles: 1) Obliger TOUS les gens à manger à l'extérieur du parc (telle est la situation actuelle de la plupart des clients de la ronde) ou autoriser TOUS les gens à amener un lunch sur le site. Autrement que ses 2 solutions, c'est de la discrimination, point à la ligne. Signons cette pétition pour que ca change, pour que ce soit égal pour TOUS!!!
Which I translate to:
La Ronde has a rule that prevents anyone from bringing their own lunch into the park. All bags are searched such that no food enters the premises. However, with this accommodation, Jews and Muslims can bring their lunch inside without objection. This petition has equality as its goal regardless of religion. La Ronde needs to discontinue this accommodation. There are just two possible solutions: 1) Force EVERYONE to eat (their bagged lunch) outside the park, (which is the current situation with most clients at the park), or (2) Allow ANYONE to bring a lunch to the site. Anything other than these two solutions is discrimination, plain and simple. Sign this petition so things will change, so it will be equal for ALL!
Sounds bloody reasonable to me.

But why the big fuss? Well, not being able to bring your own food into the park is a sore point here in Montreal, so I can see where the frustration is coming from when all one needs to do is don a yamaka or headscarf and suddenly there is no problem.  Here's a petition signed by 3000 demanding people be allowed to bring their lunches into the park. Here's another signed by 500 demanding that people at least have nutritious options at the park.

So - who are the real victims here? Apparently, it's the children. Liba Mockin, co-director of Camp Gan Israel in La Minerve, Quebec is now saying that Jewish visitors will not be able to eat for the entire day. Because apparently, they are unable to picnic outside the grounds like everyone else.
“Everyone needs to eat during the day,” she said. “Because we’re so restricted and it’s not optional — it’s not like we’re deciding on that day whether we’re eating kosher — by telling us we can’t bring kosher food, you’re telling us we can’t eat for the day.”
Really? Come on.

The executive directory of the Association for Canadian Studies says that the backlash against this accommodation is a sign of accommodation vigilantism. Sounds scary, indeed.

And here's a reaction from a leader in the Muslim community.
Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, said La Ronde would not be facing the problem if it made halal and kosher food available in its restaurants.
Okay, no. It's not La Ronde's problem at all.
He said the fact that visitors to La Ronde can eat picnic lunches in a special area outside the park entrance means the end of the accommodation will not bring significant inconvenience. But the message sent is harmful.
Right. It will, in fact, bring precisely the same level of inconvenience to Muslims and Jews as currently experienced by other religious groups and non-religious people. You know, it will be fair and equal treatment of everyone. And since it's no big deal anyway, why the need for this special accommodation?

Salam goes on to say that the motivation is much more dangerous than the action. Which is to say, not dangerous at all.

The reporter of the piece ends it with this zinger:
The hunt is back on, and the level of journalistic rigour is scarcely better. Just consider when the Journal decided to undertake its sting — during Ramadan, when most healthy Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. The reporter’s sandwich may have been the only purportedly halal food to pass through La Ronde’s gates that day and for weeks to come.
Yes, it sure was mean and nasty of the journalist to choose Ramadan to conduct this test. Imagine all those starving Muslims. Oppressed, they must make their way through the front gates of the amusement park and suffer through all the rides knowing that they must exit the park and eat outside with all the non-believers. Persecution indeed.

Of course, nobody is forcing the park to not sell kosher and halal. Perhaps now new stands will open up.

Editor's Note 2013-07-23 5:05pm: 
I just recognized the true meaning of the above zinger. The gist here is that because it is Ramadan there should be no Muslims even trying to bring food into the park. I suppose it's meant to show just how ignorant and disrespectful the journalist is to choose this time to conduct her test.  Regardless of what time of year it is, though, Muslims - fasting or not - will need to follow the same rules as everyone else.

I also forgot to mention that those with special dietary needs due to Medical (read: science-based) conditions are still permitted to bring their own food into the park.

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  1. I haven't been to amusement parks in quite a while, but the Six Flags chain is rather common here in the Midwest, and their parks won't let food be taken in, but you can get a hand stamp on your way out that will show up under UV light, to show that you had paid admission, leave for a while, and come back later in the day.

    Some people would go to local restaurants during that time, or get food that they had stored in their vehicle, it's much cheaper.

  2. GodlessPoutine23 July 2013 at 20:05

    La Ronde is actually owned and operated by Six Flags.

    Thanks for commenting. Been reading your blog. Hope things are going well.

  3. I agree with everything you said. It should be equal across the board. Some people expect to be treated differently because of their religion when it isn't warranted. Keep up the great work on your 'secret atheist blog'.

  4. Sheldon Cooper24 July 2013 at 19:47

    It's me, here, Poutine. :)

  5. Why do you care if religious Jews and Muslims bring food into an amusement park? It absolutely does not affect you in any way. It's an amusement park, these rules mostly affect children who are too young to have any choice on what they are allowed to eat. You think they're sitting at the park eating homemade sandwiches, watching all the other kids eating pizza and fries and saying "suckers?" You pretend this is such an injustice. Just be glad you're allowed to eat a cheeseburger.

    People like you are just as bad as religious bigots. Unable to live and let live.

  6. GodlessPoutine30 July 2013 at 22:39

    Thanks for your comment, Mick. I just responded to this comment in my recent post.



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